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Summary

Remove \u203D and \U0001F4A9 unicode string escapes, and add ECMAScript 6-style \u{1F4A9} escapes instead.

Motivation

The syntax of \u followed by four hexadecimal digits dates from when Unicode was a 16-bit encoding, and only went up to U+FFFF. \U followed by eight hex digits was added as a band-aid when Unicode was extended to U+10FFFF, but neither four nor eight digits particularly make sense now.

Having two different syntaxes with the same meaning but that apply to different ranges of values is inconsistent and arbitrary. This proposal unifies them into a single syntax that has a precedent in ECMAScript a.k.a. JavaScript.

Detailed design

In terms of the grammar in The Rust Reference, replace:

unicode_escape : 'u' hex_digit 4
               | 'U' hex_digit 8 ;

with

unicode_escape : 'u' '{' hex_digit+ 6 '}'

That is, \u{ followed by one to six hexadecimal digits, followed by }.

The behavior would otherwise be identical.

Migration strategy

In order to provide a graceful transition from the old \uDDDD and \UDDDDDDDD syntax to the new \u{DDDDD} syntax, this feature should be added in stages:

  • Stage 1: Add support for the new \u{DDDDD} syntax, without removing previous support for \uDDDD and \UDDDDDDDD.

  • Stage 2: Warn on occurrences of \uDDDD and \UDDDDDDDD. Convert all library code to use \u{DDDDD} instead of the old syntax.

  • Stage 3: Remove support for the old syntax entirely (preferably during a separate release from the one that added the warning from Stage 2).

Drawbacks

  • This is a breaking change and updating code for it manually is annoying. It is however very mechanical, and we could provide scripts to automate it.
  • Formatting templates already use curly braces. Having multiple curly braces pairs in the same strings that have a very different meaning can be surprising: format!("\u{e8}_{e8}", e8 = "é") would be "è_é". However, there is a precedent of overriding characters: \ can start an escape sequence both in the Rust lexer for strings and in regular expressions.

Alternatives

  • Status quo: don’t change the escaping syntax.
  • Add the new \u{…} syntax, but also keep the existing \u and \U syntax. This is what ES 6 does, but only to keep compatibility with ES 5. We don’t have that constaint pre-1.0.

Unresolved questions

None so far.

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